The path to end park logging
The Winnipeg Free Press
Logging in Duck Mountain Provincial Park is a thorny embarrassment new Premier Wab Kinew inherited from successive governments. But he must finish what the previous NDP governments started and permanently end commercial logging in Manitoba parks.
There’s only one proper pathway to solve this shameful chapter in our province and it involves reconciliation, decolonizing parks and acting on our global commitment to end the biodiversity crisis. Solving several issues at once is the leadership we need.
The current Louisiana-Pacific licence to log Duck Mountain Provincial Park expires on March 31, 2024. The new government will absolutely renew it given it’s been mere weeks since the election. While this may not have been enough time to resolve this colossally contentious catastrophe, the clock is now ticking and we demand a solution.
The Progressive Conservatives caused this problem in the 1990s by using an overestimate of wood in the Duck Mountain region as justification to give Louisiana-Pacific reign over Duck Mountain Provincial Park. Manitoba’s Clean Environment Commission had just recommended that “commercial forestry activity in all provincial parks should be phased out,” but this was ignored. The NDP fixed most of the problems in 2009 when they banned logging in 12 of 13 parks, yet left Duck Mountain to the logging companies.
Part of the prickly problem is that the logging company has been operating without a valid management plan for this region for more than 18 years. Governments have routinely passed the buck and offered Louisiana-Pacific extensions to the original erroneous plan. This file is a true embarrassment of governance and responsibility, requiring leadership and vision to fix.
Two years ago, the government of the day extended Louisiana-Pacific’s logging licence, moving three First Nations to sue because they weren’t properly consulted and the forest management proposal was poor. An out-of-court agreement was reached afterwards, but Louisiana-Pacific still offers the same poor management plan proposal.
We are in a biodiversity crisis. This new government and the federal government have committed to the global goal of protecting 30 per cent of the lands and waters to preserve biodiversity. Stopping the logging of some of the biggest, oldest trees — also inside a provincial park — is acting on the biodiversity crisis and aligns with the goals stated in the government’s mandate letters.
Part of reconciliation is ensuring First Nations have decision-making authority over their lives, lands, and waters. But right now, Louisiana-Pacific makes plans for forests in at least four First Nations territories. Returning decision-making for these public lands currently controlled by Louisiana-Pacific is one part of the pathway away from this problem for our new premier.
For most of Canada’s history, parks have been designated on First Nations territory with, ‘at best,’ no consultation. The darker side of establishing parks has involved the forced removal of Indigenous Peoples and a prohibition on their traditional activities. To counter this, we’ve seen national parks in British Columbia be redesignated as national park reserves while proper co-governance models are established with affected First Nations. The management of Duck Mountain Provincial Park and any interpretive signage throughout the park completely ignores local First Nations. To make a decolonized provincial park that Manitobans can truly be proud of requires a complete restructure according to the wishes of local First Nations.
The First Nations, whose territories are overlaid by Duck Mountain Provincial Park, must be given an opportunity to establish community resource extraction areas, which provide economic benefits, including logging employment. They also need to have culturally important areas of the region protected and biologically rich areas preserved so that moose populations can thrive. The existing borders of Duck Mountain Provincial Park will likely have to change to exclude logging and be consistent with the wishes of First Nations. Louisiana-Pacific, which has known for decades that the erroneous original wood supply analysis is the only reason they were ever even given an operating licence in the province, will have to quietly make do with the wood supply remaining.
There is no doubt that a majority of Manitobans will support this pathway to the protection of parks according to the wishes of First Nations. The establishment of this logging operation over a park has been a massive failure. Science doesn’t support this logging. Global nature protection goals don’t support it. The government’s own mandate letters don’t support it. No responsible government would continue to authorize this monumental boondoggle. This leaves us with the question: do we now have a responsible government?
Eric Reder is the Wilderness and Water campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.
Correction: the logging licence end date was incorrectly published as expiring on December 31, 2023. The correct end date of March 31, 2024 has been updated in the story.
This piece was published by the Winnipeg Free Press on December 23, 2023.